Tuesday, July 1, 2014

New Dress - Red Birds, Red Buckle, Red Buttons

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Cori and I attended a huge WWII event in Reading, PA the first weekend in June. Each year the Mid Atlantic Air Museum's holds an enormous air show and WWII reenactment. We have several friends who go just about every year and have been telling us it the event to go to on the East Coast for WWII living history. Just how big is this event? Well, we spoke with one staff person about the number of military vehicles that were there. He said out of the registered vehicles there were about 100 jeeps! There were of course more then that. Also all kinds of trucks, motorcycles, etc. And of course the planes! Seeing these war birds up close and personal, it doesn't get any better then that! (You can see an overhead view of the event site here.)

My 1940s "Red Birds Dress" using McCall 5724.
Photo in front of the war bird B-25J Mitchell WWII bomber "Briefing Time"
While I have a fairly decent selection of actual 40s clothing I can wear, recreating pieces from my vintage patterns just seemed the way to go for this event. I knew that I would be outside walking around all day and most likely would not have to opportunity to run back to the hotel and change in the case of bad weather. I did bring several vintage pieces with me just in case. If you are following me on Facebook you will have seen my 40s novelty "fan print" dress. Don't worry, there will be a post about it. :)

This spring, between Sew For Victory and planning outfits for this event, I spent some time going through my fabrics to organize and see what I had. Some fabrics lend themselves to a variety of sewing projects for different time periods and some are best suited for only one. For example, many of my fabrics are great for vintage or modern sewing but are NOT good for anything 18th/19th century. Fiber content and print being the biggest reasons. I try to organize my fabrics by what I plan to do with them. Historical sewing (18th/19th century appropriate fabrics) vs. vintage/modern sewing. Obviously there is a lot more freedom is choosing a fabric for my vintage/modern sewing projects. :) But sometimes there are fabrics that can be used for just about anything. In my next post you'll see the 1940s slacks I made using linen that was left from an 18th century project. 

What I'm calling my "Red Birds Dress" was another "limited fabric so cut carefully" projects. Like my recent birthday dress, this fabric came from my mom's sewing stash. Although it's cotton she decided it wasn't suitable for quilting. This fabric had been waiting quietly in the vintage/modern stash for just the right pattern to come along. Because it was just shy of 3 yards and only 32 inches wide, I knew I would be somewhat limited as to what I could do with it.

McCall 5724 was purchased with a small group of patterns. I was a little unsure about it at first but it's one of those patterns that I find myself drawn to every time I go through my pattern box. Maybe it's the beautiful cover illustration or maybe it's the cute details of the bodice. I can't put my figure on it but I just knew that this was a pattern that deserved to be used! I hesitated at first to use this fabric for a 1940s dress. But then I found this same print in a green colorway somewhere online and it was listed as 1940s fabric! I'm kicking myself because I didn't save the picture. And of course I can't find it now. (If someone finds it please let me know!) The more I thought about the fabric the easier it became to picture it made from McCall 5724.

McCall 5724. It has pockets!
I chose View B, without the ruffles. I spent a good amount of time placing the pattern pieces on the fabric. The bodice was a bit tricky for a couple reasons. First the sleeves are cut in one with the bodice. Second the front is made of two pieces which include material for the front facings. A little odd to explain but if you look closely at the pattern cover you can see that the dress buttons down the front. The extra material is folded back to act as a facing for the buttons and button holes.  

Getting started...
Bodice back
The back of the bodice is fitted with small darts. The front is fitted with small darts and shearing at the shoulders. Four rows of gathering stitches were made then each drawn up to fit between the corresponding marks on the pattern. The edges of the bodice front pieces are lapped and the top stitched in place.You can see those details in one of the photos below.

The almost finished dress.
A little white back I was asked to share where I find my buckles. I wish I could tell you that I have some amazing secret source for these buckles, but I don't. I'm sure you've spotted a few of them on my blog before. (Here for example.) A few years back I made a lucky find at a local antique/junk shop where I was able to purchase about a dozen vintage buckles for a round $1.00 each. They were tied together in a neat little bundle. Some are 70s/80s vintage but most are much earlier. There were a few plastic ones, possibly Bakelite or Lucite but I'm not sure, like the red one above and a few shell ones too.

The buckle and buttons used for this project are actually the same ones in this photo that obviously I didn't end up using with that particular dress. Can I just say how incredibly hard it was for me to remove these buttons from their original card? Not physically of course, they popped right off. But because they were NOS (new old stock). I'm happy I used them because I really think this was the perfect project for them!

Vintage "Glamour Girl" buttons pinned in place. Also a good look at the lapped seam and shoulder shearing.
Vintage Buckle!
So here we go, the finished dress! I wore this for the first day of the airshow. My accessories are all 40s vintage except for my shoes which are Aris Allen 40s style repros from the Dance Store. I wore them for two days straight and found them to be very comfortable.

B-25J Mitchell WWII bomber "Briefing Time"

This is the only photo I have of the back of my hat.

B-25J Mitchell WWII bomber "Briefing Time"

All reenactors had to wear id bracelets so that's what that funny blue thing is around my wrist. BUT you can also see my Marine Corps sweetheart bracelet. :) Thank you to Voon Chew for taking and allowing me to share these last two photos!

Photo by Voon Chew
Photo by Voon Chew
Pattern - McCall 5724
Fabric - Mom's fabric stash
Buckle and Buttons - My stash
Shoes - Close out from Dance Store .com
Hat - Etsy
Gloves and Purse - Thrifted
Sweetheart Bracelet - Brimfield Antique Show
Lipstick color - Red Velvet by Bésame 

Summary of the Pattern
Fabric: Vintage cotton print
Pattern: McCall 5724
Year: 1940s
Notions: Buttons, buckle, thread, fusible interfacing, zipper.
How historically accurate is it? Not to brag, but I'd say 10 out of 10! Everything but the thread and interfacing for the belt is 40s vintage. :)
Any tricky parts to the pattern? The button holes. I dislike them but I'm getting better the more I do. The bodice was a bit tricky but after studying the directions I figured it out and it went together pretty well. 
Did you change anything? Surprisingly, no
Time to complete: About a week
First worn: June 2014
Total cost: All the materials were from the stash! Yeah! I think I paid around $10 or $12 for the pattern.
Notes: Looking at these pictures, I think I should shorten the skirt just a little bit. 


  1. Emily! Gosh this dress is amazing. Can I say that it looks even better than the pattern illustration? I know that sometimes with these vintage patterns the illustrations end up being nothing like the end product, but your dress is amazing. I'm also impressed with the little yardage you were able to create this dress from. Did the pattern envelope call for more? Also, your hair is so wonderfully styled. I bet you got oodles of compliments. I'd love to go to this event one day. It sounds like such fun mixing with all different types of people all there for various reasons.

  2. I can only agree - this dress is gorgeous! I love the fabric, especially the red birds, and you were absolutely right to use the vintage buttons for this project. From head to toes - everything looks great!

    I know how frustrating it is if there is only little fabric available for a certain pattern. You really made a great job, you can be very proud of your dress.

  3. Your dress turned out lovely! I love how the red isn't blaring over the whole entire fabric, but instead provides an interesting, beautiful print. I love those buttons and that buckle too. :)

    the Middle Sister and Singer

  4. You both look wonderful, and your fabric is just perfection!

  5. Wow! All I can say is wow right now! You are so very talented! Your entire outfit is so gorgeous, I love how the vintage buttons and buckle really just give the dress that added touch.

    Oh, and I found your blog via Emileigh from Flashback Summer and I'm glad to be following you now!

  6. Thank you all so much! This is really one of my favorite projects. I'm really pleased with it. :) I have to figure out something creative to do with the leftover bits.

    I wish blogger would let me reply to each comment individually.

    Joanna, I don't remember how much yardage was listed on the envelope. I will have to check.

    Welcome Angela! Thanks for joining me. I love Emileigh's blog!

  7. That fabric is charming! And I'll have to tell my husband about that event. He likes WWII history, so that sounds right up his alley.

    Also, I sent your swap package out today, so hopefully it will be arriving soon!


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